The United States of America being attacked on September 11, 2001, resulting in thousands of innocent Americans dying brought heartbreaking grief to our nation.
The events were stunning.
The images were shocking.
The day was stupefying.
The reality was surreal.
At the same time, the selflessness, bravery, and strength displayed by Americans, at a time of overwhelming crisis, reflected to the world the incredible character of our people and fortitude of our cultural identity.
As we commemorate the 15th anniversary of the American heroes lost on September 11, Americans recall the powerful memories, forever etched in their minds, of where they were and how they felt when they first heard the news of commercial airliners, being used as weapons, crashing into the World Trade Center Twin Towers in Manhattan, the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Bob Schneider, International Business Operations Consultant, Washington D.C.
“I was nearly killed in the Pentagon attack. I don’t remember much about that day…..”
Colin Lundgren, U.S. Army Specialist, Joliet, IL
“I was only ten years old. I remember I had stayed home from school that day. When I walked into the living room the news was on, and the first plane had already hit.
At first I thought it was a just a movie. When I asked what it was, my grandma explained to me it was all real. I don’t remember how I felt when the second plane hit and the towers fell, but I do remember looking to my left and seeing the strongest woman I know in tears.”
Jayne Platt, Aviation Industry, Providence, RI
“There are few days I can remember with such clarity. I was working for my brother at his office. One of the guys called in to say ‘If you have a TV, turn it on now.’ I ran to the closet and pulled out the little portable TV with a manual antenna.
I couldn’t believe what we were watching. Then, we saw the second plane heading to the towers. My immediate reaction was this is ‘a real war of the worlds’ – like a second Pearl Harbor.”
Bruce Boyd, Business Owner, Springfield, VA
“I was just 20 minutes from the Pentagon. I was still at home and had not gone to work yet when I heard the news. I was really shocked. That evening, I drove by the Pentagon to see firsthand. It was sickening to see the destruction.”
Lisa-Marie Cashman, Media Correspondent, Boston, MA
“I was in my car on Route 1 passing by Logan Airport. I started to cry, and I was shaking. As I pulled the car over, I was thinking about how G-d had spared me for some reason, but others had tragically lost their lives.
You see, the night before, my client called to cancel our plans to meet in NYC at the WTC for a board meeting. I was supposed to be on the flight out of Boston.”
Tami Torango Booth, Teacher, South Lyon, MI
“It was the first day of the new school year for the 3 year old preschool class I assistant taught. A friend called to tell us what was going on. It was surreal. We weren’t sure what it really meant or what to do.
The children played peacefully and nothing seemed different, but I had a feeling much was about to change. As parents came to pick up their children, we looked at each other with bewilderment and wondered what exactly was happening.”
Kate Killman, Retired FBI, Bumpass, VA
“Upon hearing the news of the first plane crash, my initial hope was that someone had accidentally flown a plane into the building. I recalled a similar event after the first WTC explosion, when an explosion in New York a few weeks later turned out not to be terrorism.
When the second plane crashed into the WTC, my heart hoped that an errant news team had flown too close. My head said that it was an attack and the prior one was terrorism as well.
I was at the FBI Academy in my office located on the first floor of the classroom building and always had many students walking by. I sat my TV in the hall so all could watch as events unfolded. On several occasions, there were five or more rows standing in front of the TV. All were mostly speechless throughout the day.
One staff member came into my office white-faced. Her husband worked at the Pentagon and had just called to say he was alive, and the smoke filled building was being evacuated. By the time she came into my office, the news began reporting that a third plane had flown into the Pentagon. Fortunately, her husband escaped unscathed.”
Nick Voss, Business Owner, Phoenix, AZ
“I was in my office in Des Plaines, Illinois, just a mile or two from O’Hare Airport. It was eerie, because normally there are planes flying over 24/7, but it got quiet. You could almost hear a pin drop.
Then there were patrol cars on every corner. A few of our technicians were working downtown but could not get back to the suburbs, because mass transit was shut down.”
Scott Yaw, Executive, Philadelphia, PA
“In my office on 26th Street in Manhattan, our conference room had a view of the WTC, looking downtown. I looked up and saw one building with smoke coming out. Then the other was hit.
I left the office within five minutes and headed to Penn Station to catch any train headed to Pennsylvania or points south. The NJT train was packed with standing room only. I was in the last car looking out of the rear window. Penn Station NY (and all of NY) was closed after I boarded. No other train followed us out of the NY tunnels and all the way to Trenton, NJ.”
Colleen Sullivan Simrell, Business Owner, Cumming, GA
“My father was at Dallas/Fort Worth airport about to fly to San Antonio for possible entrance into an experimental cancer treatment program. He called me and said the entire airport had shut down. He asked me to turn on the TV and find out what was going on.
I saw the second plane fly into the second tower as they were realizing we were under terrorist attack. I called my dad to tell him. He, a man dying of cancer, responded, ‘And we think we have problems.’
I got my three kids out of school. We came back to the house and watched it all unfold. My dad drove to San Antonio for the appointment and drove back late that night. He had been turned down for the experimental cancer treatment. He passed 6 months later.”
Beverly Faull, Business Owner, Tucson, AZ
“I was living in California. I was getting ready for work when my sister called me. She was hysterical and demanding to know where I was. You see, I was supposed to be in New York that week just north of Manhattan. My sister was frantic at her home in the Midwest thinking I was in New York.
She told me what was going on, and I turned on the TV. I was stunned at what I was seeing and hearing. Stunned is the only word I can use to describe my thoughts in those first few minutes of realization.
After the attack, I had to get home, meaning Tucson. I had a need for the safety of my home and the closeness of my family. The one feeling that stays with me to this day is the day after the attack I was driving from California to Tucson, because there was no airline service for several days.
As I drove through the desert that trip, the feeling of complete despair for our country overwhelmed me as I listened to the radio and the patriotic songs that were playing for the entire trip. I can still ‘feel’ that feeling today when I think of that trip.”
Carl DeMusz, Chief Executive Officer, Cleveland, OH
“I had family in for a long weekend, and Tuesday was my first day back at work. I heard on the radio on my way to work that a plane had run into the WTC with the announcer speculated that it was a small plane and it must have been an incompetent pilot.
At my desk, I heard on the radio that another plane had hit the second tower. Some of my staff tuned in an old TV set and watched the coverage. My wife called me crying and said she heard our country was at war.
We had a son in the Navy, stationed in Connecticut, with an office in the Pentagon in D.C. I closed the office upon hearing a plane had hit the Pentagon. I remember walking into the training lab in front of the 24 students in the class and getting choked up noting we were not able to reach my son.
It was a very intense and painful day, and my heart broke for those that lost loved ones. I was also very proud of our police and firemen who stood their ground under horrible circumstances.”